A blindfolded artist`s views

New Delhi: Not too far from a leading art gallery here stands an 800-year-old arched gateway amid the ruins of the historical city of Tughlaqabad. Mumbai-based performance artist Tejal Shah, known for interactive acts and new media art, relates to it in a strange way.

"The arched gateway symbolises the blurring of borders. It must have some extending boundaries that have gone, devoured by the ravages of time. It is a permeable doorway symbolic of a threshold - like a passage to a new consciousness," Shah told reporters during her performance, "An Exercise in Trust".

"There is a cosmic element about the door - the transformation from the old to new and link between the past and the present," Shah said at south Delhi`s Vadehra Art Gallery where a unique new media exposition of art titled "IDentity" is on.

"IDentity" features interactive installation and performance artists like Atul Bhalla, Manis Bhatt, Praneet Soi, Tushar Joag, Tejal Shah and Shilpa Gupta and the Desire Machine Collective and is on from Oct 28-Nov 25.

So the gallery has been converted into a live performance, mural and experimental space.

Shah`s hour-long personalised art act engaged the individual viewer and the landscape in a conversation about identity, sensibilities, change, new consciousness and art in public space in a post-9/11 world where trust is at a premium and sensibilities are blunt.

As part of her act, a blindfolded Shah made herself available to viewers as a "blind" subject on a journey of discovery and finding identities.

The viewer tells her what they see and she describes how she relates to and interprets the art installation.

"Each act binds one person to the other. I see it as a new global scenario after 9/11 (and 26/11), where people must learn to trust each other and care," she said.

"Performance art has changed over the years. I don`t need to document the acts to create a visual metaphor. The conversations are the testimonies. It is living, tangible art," Shah explained.

The artist`s next stop as the blindfolded traveller was "Reality Check-Out", a video and text installation probing the growth of insurgency and violence in Assam.

Created by Guwahati-based Desire Machine Collective - a cooperative by Sonal Jain and Mriganka Madhukallya - the installation uses old British documents about Northeastern Railway, old cartographic maps of the Brahmaputra river and statutes pertaining to the creation of the seven sister states to track the trail of violence in Assam.

Two parallel videos show how violence spills into everyday life...And youth is the victim.

"Violence and art are interlinked. Art can manifest itself in many forms - propaganda, protest and as a catalyst of change," Shah said, after feeling her way around the installation.

Amsterdam-based Praneet Soi is working on life-size murals in black, white and grey to convey the morphing of identifies, death, resurrection and the correlation between man, machine, built space, art and emotions.

"The four murals, titled `Project 4`, are a continuation of my recent projects at Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, Adelaide International and in Villinius in Lithuania that interpret human figures in times of globalisation, migration, immigration, war and terror in the landscape around you," Soi told reporters.

The artist, who has lived in Delhi and Kolkata, the US and The Netherlands, describes his murals as progression, depicting all that the march of civilisation entails, including the search for new identities.

Tushar Joag`s drawings of the "Unicell man", a superman like animation hero, is every thinking Mumbaikar`s dream to live it "big in a clean Mumbai".

Shilpa Gupta`s video "100 hand-drawn maps of India" speaks of the individual`s ability to reshape boundaries, while Atul Bhalla uses his own body as "markers" to comment on environment.

"The exhibition tries to address urgent questions about issues of citizenship, individuality and identity in a country which will empower its people with an official Unique Identification Card by 2011," said Parul Vadehra of the Vahedra Art Gallery.